Australia — The New South Wales Opposition says theGovernment should look at buying or leasing a water-bombing helicopter to fightbushfires in the state.
At the moment the sky-cranes are leased and brought toAustralia from the Northern Hemisphere for the bushfire season.
The Government says that is the cheaper option.
But Liberal spokesman for emergency services, AndrewHumpherson, says there is a growing need for a helicopter to be based here.
“As the fire season starts earlier and earlier, wecannot rely on having to wait for these helicopters to be finished in their usein the northern hemisphere,” he said.
“We’ve lost houses and had fires as early asSeptember this year and now we’re waiting until November before thesehelicopters arrive, and that’s a month earlier than was planned.
“I think the public of New South Wales want to seeall that’s reasonably able to be done to protect homes against bushfires.
“The Government itself says bushfire seasons aregetting more extreme, more intense and longer, so we have to look at everymeasure that’s practical to make sure that we protect homes and make sure we cancontrol the fires when they occur.”
But the Minister for Emergency Services, Tony Kelly, saysbasing a sky-crane in NSW would be a waste of money.
“To buy a suitable air-crane, if one was available,would cost in excess of $22 million,” he said.
“To which you’ve got to add the standing cost ofkeeping the plane ready to fly, like maintainance, repairs, cruise salaries andinsurance, and that would add a further $2.5 million a year just to have theplane sitting on the ground for eight months of the year.”
Elvis and Shania
Two sky-crane helicopters are due to arrive in Sydneytomorrow to help fight bush-fires over the summer.
The water bombers, “Elvis” and “Shania”,are being brought from the US and will be sent to their bases later in the weekafter fine-tuning.
Mr Kelly says the helicopters are only needed for fourmonths over summer.
“We’re leasing four in the fire season when we needthem … so what we’re doing is concentrating it in one part of the year,”he said.
“And that’s a more economic bid.
“Also there’s been a parliamentary inquiry, that’sconcluded that it’s a far more economic and rational approach to leasethem.”